According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, more than 62,000 first-time Tennessee undergraduates sought four-year degrees or certificates in 2016. Of these, 16,700 learners enrolled exclusively in distance education courses, equaling 5.4 percent of all students. That number rose to 55,100, or 17.7 percent, when including students enrolled in both online and on-campus courses. In response to this growing popularity, many colleges and universities are expanding their blended and online learning options. But with so many opportunities available now and in the future, how do students find the best one for them? Read on to learn the ins and outs of online colleges and universities in Tennessee.
Best Online Colleges in Tennessee 2020
In 2001, the TN eCampus program pioneered online education in the state. Distance learners can choose from more than 500 online programs at 13 community colleges and six state schools. An increasing number of students at public and private schools enroll in online courses. Nationwide, 33.7% of students took some distance learning courses in the fall of 2017, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Online learning is a key factor in Tennessee's Drive to 55 plan, which aims for 55% of state residents to hold a college degree or certificate by 2025. This guide provides information about state initiatives and funding opportunities that support learners attending online schools and colleges in Tennessee.
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How Can I Find Which Online Colleges Offer the Degree I'm Looking for in Tennessee?
Tennessee schools offer many online programs, and prospective students should consider their career goals when choosing the best option. To narrow down your list of prospective schools, look for institutions that offer your desired degree program, and only consider accredited schools.
You can search the TN eCampus website from the College System of Tennessee to learn about online degree and certificate programs. You can also click the link below for details about online schools and colleges in Tennessee.
How Much More Do College Grads in Tennessee Make?
College graduates typically have more employment opportunities than individuals without a degree. Workers aged 25 to 35 who hold a bachelor's degree or higher enjoy an 86% employment rate, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Earning potential also increases with degree level. Bachelor's degree-holders in the state earn an average of $67,426 a year, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The table below illustrates the nationwide correlation between salary and educational attainment.
|Less Than a High School Diploma||High School Diploma||Associate Degree||Bachelor's Degree||Master's Degree||Doctoral Degree|
Paying for Online College in Tennessee: Tuition and Financial Aid
Tuition at online schools and colleges in Tennessee costs less than the national average. The Tennessee Promise program offers free tuition at state community colleges and technical centers for students who meet income requirements. However, participating students must pay for housing, textbooks, and other education-related expenses. The following table compares average in-state and out-of-state tuition rates in Tennessee to the national averages.
|Type of School||In-State Tuition||Out-of-State Tuition||National Average|
Cost Considerations for Online Students in Tennessee
The figures above do not include additional expenses. Although distance learners often save money on costs such as housing and transportation, many schools charge online students additional fees. Below are a few cost considerations for learners attending online schools and colleges in Tennessee.
Many schools charge a fee to cover the cost of on-campus student organizations, activities, and events.
Schools often charge a fee to pay for chemicals, materials, and equipment.
This fee covers costs associated with maintaining an online learning platform and providing technology support services.
Tuition rates may be higher during summer and winter terms. Schools may charge a flat fee or per-credit tuition rates.
Many institutions charge a technology fee to cover the email system, technology support services, on-campus Wi-Fi, and computer labs.
Qualifying for In-State Tuition in Tennessee
Requirements to qualify for in-state residency can vary by school. However, to qualify for residency, learners must typically show proof of having lived in Tennessee for at least 12 consecutive months preceding the first day of school. Adequate sources of proof typically include a driver's license, proof of employment, and voter registration.
Some online schools and colleges in Tennessee charge all distance learners in-state tuition rates, regardless of residency. Additionally, reciprocity agreements can enable students from participating states to qualify for discounted tuition rates at out-of-state schools. Learners should research all applicable requirements and agreements before applying.
Paying for College in Tennessee: Scholarships and Financial Aid
Although average tuition rates in Tennessee are lower than the national averages, most students still need assistance paying for college. Scholarships and grants are ideal forms of funding since they do not require repayment, and can help learners pay for tuition and educational expenses -- such as textbooks and supplies. The grants and scholarships below are available to learners attending online schools and colleges in Tennessee.
Scholarships for Tennessee College Students
Who Can Apply: Students with at least a 3.0 GPA and attend an accredited college can apply for this scholarship. Applicants submit a 600-word essay about their career aspirations and an optional YouTube video.
Who Can Apply: Funded through the state lottery, this scholarship supplements the HOPE Scholarship for college freshmen. Applicants must have a minimum 3.75 GPA and at least a 29 ACT score or 1330 SAT score.
Who Can Apply: The HOPE scholarship, funded through the state lottery, supports learners entering a two-year or four-year school. Applicants must enroll in a postsecondary institution within 16 months of graduating high school. Adult learners can access a similar scholarship.
Amount: $1,750 to $2,250
Who Can Apply: The Horatio Alger Foundation offers funds to high school students who demonstrate financial need and integrity and who have overcome hardships. The foundation delivers more than 70 scholarships.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports students with intellectual disabilities. Applicants must have graduated from a Tennessee high school and must maintain residency to reapply each year.
Amount: $1,750 to $2,250
Grants for Tennessee College Students
Who Can Apply: This need-based grant supports graduates of eligible high schools. Applicants must reside in Tennessee and have graduated from high school during the previous 16 months. Applicants must have at least a 2.75 GPA and a minimum 18 ACT score or 960 SAT score.
Amount: $875 to $1,250
Who Can Apply: Former children of the foster care system can apply for this grant. Applicants must meet qualifications for the HOPE Scholarship or the HOPE Access Grant.
Who Can Apply: This grant helps state residents pay for tuition at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology. Applicants must be pursuing a certificate or diploma.
Who Can Apply: Students can apply this grant toward tuition and expenses at a community college or technical college. Recipients can also apply the grant to tuition at some four-year colleges.
Who Can Apply: This grant supports students pursuing a degree or diploma at a Tennessee College of Applied Technology. Applicants must have lived in Tennessee for at least one year. Prior recipients cannot reapply.
Amount: Up to $2,000
The Importance of Accreditation for Online Colleges and Universities in Tennessee
Accreditation demonstrates that a school's curricula meet set standards of quality. The accreditation process involves evaluation by an independent agency.
In addition to assuring students of their education's quality, accreditation ensures that employers and other institutions will recognize credits and degrees earned from the school. Many types of financial aid, including federal and state aid, are only available to learners at accredited institutions. The sections below explore the importance of choosing from accredited online schools and colleges in Tennessee.
Regional and National AccreditationInstitutions undergo a voluntary process to receive national or regional accreditation. Academic two-year and four-year schools typically receive regional accreditation, while for-profit and vocational schools often earn national accreditation. Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of institutional accreditation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) awards regional accreditation to Tennessee institutions.
Subject-Specific AccreditationPrograms and departments within colleges can receive accreditation from professional agencies and private organizations. Subject-specific accreditation ensures that programs prepare learners to succeed in the field. Additionally, professionals in some industries must hold a degree from an accredited program to qualify for licensure.
How to Know if Your School or Program is AccreditedOnline resources can help students identify or verify the accreditation status of a school or program. Learners can search directories on the Department of Education website and the SACSCOC website. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation also maintains a database of accredited schools and programs and recognized accrediting agencies.
Online College and Adult Education in Tennessee
The state of Tennessee offers grants and maintains initiatives to help adult learners achieve their academic goals. Online schools and colleges in Tennessee help improve access to higher education for busy students with personal and professional obligations. The sections below include information and resources for adult learners in the state.
Adult Education Programs for Tennessee Students
Online College Resources for Tennessee Students
Students attending online schools and colleges in Tennessee can access online resources for academic and career support. The resources below can help Tennessee students excel in college.